Sixers' home mystique wears off in latest test

Sixers' home mystique wears off in latest test


There were playoff implications on the line between the Sixers and Pacers — and it showed.

The Sixers (36-30) lost, 101-98, to the Pacers (40-28) in one of their more intense matchups of the season. Tensions ran high as technical fouls were called, whistles were contested, and one player left the court injured. 

The Sixers entered the night only two games behind the Pacers in the standings. If the playoffs had begun Tuesday, the Sixers and Pacers would have been matched up in a 3-6 series. The Sixers could have closed the gap with a win that could have impacted the fight for home-court advantage. 

• The Pacers snapped the Sixers' impressive 13-game win streak at the Wells Fargo Center. They had not lost in Philadelphia since Dec. 21, 2017, against the Raptors. The arena was quiet as fans filed out. 

• Joel Embiid worked on his highlight reel, throwing down monster dunks. He led all players with a 29-point, 12-rebound double-double. He attempted (and missed) a game-tying three with six seconds left. 

• The Sixers didn’t do themselves any favors with 12 first-half turnovers. They committed a total of 21 in the game, giving up 29 points. Embiid accounted for eight of the errors. The Pacers, meanwhile, only committed 10 as a team. 

• The Sixers were prepared for Lance Stephenson (11 points, four rebounds, three assists) to be a spark plug for the second unit. 

“Lance coming off a bench is lightning in a bottle possibly,” Brett Brown said. 

They should have expected him to be feisty, too. That’s been his M.O. his entire career. Stephenson wasn’t shy to mix things up with the Sixers, including drawing a tech on Embiid. 

• The Pacers pulled off the win in spite of an off night from All-Star guard Victor Oladipo. He shot 4 for 21 from the field and scored only 11 points. 

• Pacers forward Domantas Sabonis suffered a left ankle sprain when Embiid was pushed by Trevor Booker under the basket and then landed on his ankle. Sabonis was helped off the court by his teammates, who were visibly bothered by how the injury occurred. 

• Brent Celek, Brian Westbrook and Freddie Mitchell were at the game sitting courtside near actor Michael B. Jordan. 

Joel Embiid wants to play every game the rest of the way

USA Today Images

Joel Embiid wants to play every game the rest of the way

The Sixers have been looking for ways to get Joel Embiid rest before the postseason. The most obvious solution would be sitting him for an entire game.

Except Embiid has no interest in doing that.

“I’m playing in every game,” Embiid said following his 59th appearance of the season. 

The Sixers have 12 games remaining prior to the playoffs. Six are in variations of home-away back-to-backs, starting with Thursday’s matchup in Orlando in which Embiid is expected to play. 

His minutes have jumped this season to 31 per game, a serious leap for the player who had been under tight restrictions. The Sixers need a healthy Embiid to succeed in the postseason, and they are eyeing time off for him and other high-minutes players. 

“I think that there will be a game that we do do that,” Brett Brown said. “He’s just so ridiculously competitive and he so much wants to please the fans of Philadelphia. He so much wants to please the fans of Philadelphia. I think that for us to say he’s going to play every one of the remaining games after tonight, 12 of them, is not going to happen. But I bet it comes with a fight.”

Brown is right. Embiid has been making his case to remain in the lineup. 

“We didn’t come this far to rest me,” Embiid said following the Sixers’ 119-105 win over the Grizzlies (see observations). “I mean, I was always complaining about playing every game and playing back-to-backs, I’m sure the fans were too. 

“Now that we’re here, I can understand maybe the last game before we get ready for the playoffs, but other than that, I want to play every game because that’s my first time I get the chance to do that.”

The reasons to rest are pretty clear. The grind of the season can take its toll, especially on a player who never has come close to playing this amount of basketball. Embiid, though, thrives on consistency and repetition. He’s averaging 25.0 points and 14.0 rebounds in five games on no days’ rest. 

“You stay in shape,” Embiid said. “I’m the type of guy that when I miss a day or two and I don’t really do anything, I get out of shape really quick. Just being consistent about playing and not missing two or three days. I know my body … I want to keep going. Honestly, I’ve been feeling really good. I haven’t been tired, so I’ve just got to keep it going.”

Brown sees that perspective, having coached players over his career who have had the same mentality.

“Too much time off wasn’t desirable," Brown said. "It sounds attractive but the maniacal ones especially, you feel like you’re just not as well prepared, I think to strike that balance of the rest versus rhythm is always a challenge. I don’t think it’s a generic formula.”

Another solution: Building — and maintaining — big enough leads to rest in the fourth. The Sixers led the Grizzlies by 30 after three quarters,which allowed all the starters to sit the entire final quarter. Embiid played only 19 minutes and 33 seconds. 

Sixers crush Grizzlies for 40th win of season

Sixers crush Grizzlies for 40th win of season


The Sixers turned up the heat against the Grizzlies on a snowy Wednesday night to win, 119-105, and improve to 40-30. 

The Sixers built a 30-point lead by the end of the third quarter, allowing the starters to rest in the fourth. Brett Brown cleared the bench, including both two-way contract players: James Young and Demetrius Jackson. 

This extra time off comes at the perfect moment for the Sixers, who will travel to Orlando for a back-to-back Thursday. Brown has been trying to find ways to give the high-minute players, especially Joel Embiid, a break amid the packed game schedule. 

• Talk about a balanced effort. The Sixers got nearly identical offensive contributions from Robert Covington, Dario Saric, JJ Redick, Marco Belinelli (15 points each), Embiid (14 points) and Ben Simmons (13 points). 

• Inconsistently-utilized players like Richaun Holmes and Justin Anderson are hungry to play and exhibit that on the floor with high energy. Holmes threw down dunks, causing the bench to react like this: 

• The opponent’s starting center struggled for the second straight game. Like Dwight Howard of the Hornets, Marc Gasol scored well below his season average with just five points. Gasol is posting 17.7 points per game this season.

• A win over the subpar Grizzlies wasn’t a guarantee. The Grizzlies beat the Sixers, 105-101, back on Jan. 22 in Memphis. That night, Tyreke Evans scored 10 points in the fourth quarter as they staged their biggest comeback victory of the season. The Chester, Pennsylvania, native was inactive Wednesday.

• Amir Johnson did his best Simmons impression with a behind-the-back pass to, appropriately, Simmons. 

• The Sixers gave away two free hot dogs at halftime for all those who came to the game in the snow. Fans filed out of their seats with 30 seconds left in the first half to get ahead of the lines on the concourse.